By Mike McLeish
Some of the world’s best cycling routes also happen to pass through some of the most beautiful wine growing areas. If you love globe-trotting on a bike and perhaps sipping on taste a glass of wine on the way, you are going to be spoilt for choice. From the world-famous wine growing regions of France to the Cape Winelands of South Africa and much more in between, you will certainly get one that meets your expectations.
Here are 10 top wine cycling destinations you cannot afford to miss.
10 Top Wine Cycling Destinations
1. Burgundy Region, France
Burgundy is certainly one of the most popular French destinations for those who love wine cycling tours. The region of Burgundy is filled with rich culture and great grandeur that stems from the history and beauty of Dijon. Ride through traditional medieval French towns, such as Beaune and Tournus or traverse a striking and picturesque countryside full of chateaux, hillside villages, forests, and spectacular vineyards complete with world-class wine and food.
With paths that have been dedicated specifically to your cycling, bike travel is the ultimate way of seeing this picturesque area. The route takes you through a variety of landscapes and along waterways.
2. The Wachau Valley, Austria
Wachau valley, a UNESCO-listed site that is located at the north-eastern Austrian corner has numerous Benedictine abbeys, medieval castles, and endless stone-terraced vineyards. This has made it one of the most spectacular stretches of the 365km heavily trafficked Danube Cycle Path.
Join other visitors who often come to enjoy this serene stretch that lies between the historic towns of Krems and Melk, only on a day trip out of Vienna. It makes a fine place to begin your multi-day bike Wachau Valley cycling journey.
3. Sonoma County, California, USA
Sonoma County offers diversity as you will get rides here that suit everyone, starting with paved routes running along old railroad tracks, to valleys full of vineyards, steep mountain passes as well as knife-edge roads. Alternatively, rent a cycle at the Sebastopol Bike Center, and start set off for an easy 18km half-day loop to Forestville and back.
Along the route, call at any of the family-run boutique wineries, such as Iron Horse and Taft Street, which specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. There are different packages to choose from: whether you are a casual rider, have a family, or a fairly experienced cyclist seeking a real biking challenge, there is something for everyone.
4. Colchagua Valley, Chile
Only recently has biking emerged as a popular way of exploring the most promising of Chile’s wine regions: The Colchagua valley. Available tours cover a dramatic landscape that lies just below the towering and majestic Andes Mountains. Here Chilean cowboys in their famous chequered ponchos and flat-brimmed chupalla hats roam through beautiful emerald green hills.
The Colchagua valley in Chile is now your best option where you can sample wines made from carménère grape, recently rediscovered and now extinct in its motherland of Bordeaux. If you are more passionate about the surrounding wineries than in peddling the 136km bike route, you can opt for one of the motorized e-bikes for a more pleasant family tour. This takes your team to several renowned wineries of global repute like Viña VIK, Casa Silva, and Mont Gras.
5. Coquimbito, Argentina
Coquimbito, a rural wine region lies about 20 minutes to the south of Mendoza City by public bus, in the shadow of the gigantic Andes. Perhaps its claim to global fame is a newly designed 12km bike path (ciclovia) that runs along Urquiza Street. It links almost a dozen tourist-friendly wineries (bodegas) on a well-signposted and easily navigable path.
Some of the top producers in Argentina, including La Rural and Trapiche, lie just off the ciclovia, and they offer tastings that are exceptionally affordable (from just £3). These are provided within some of America’s oldest stone-built wineries.
6. Healdsburg to Dry Creek Loop, California, US
Follow the tranquil California byways that go through the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. You can opt to stop and explore historic wineries such as the Francis Ford Coppola that comes complete with rich memorabilia covering the film-making career of the Coppola family. If you want something more challenging, take the Rockpile Road, a stunning detour that takes you through the Recreation Area of Lake Sonoma with spectacular views of the Lake.
This route passes lots of distinctive Dry Creek Valley wineries, home to over 50 wineries. Here you can taste wines direct from the Zichichi barrelor, a crisp, cool biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc from the solar-powered Quivira tasting room.
7. Marlborough, New Zealand
To the northern tip of New Zealand, you’ll find South Island, a true paradise if you are an active wine lover. Here you can cycle between thirty wineries that are scattered across vine-lined, rural roads. Although grassy Sauvignon Blanc is the celebrated export of Marlborough, the wineries will endeavour to convince you that the Pinot Noirs and Rieslings are also world class.
Marlborough may not have a clearly designated cycle path although there are lots 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers on Middle Renwick, New, and Old roads suitable for families.
8. Bordeaux, France
‘The Pearl of Aquitaine’ is the ideal location if you love wine. Here you can sample some of the world’s best wines straight from the wineries cellar door. During your cycling tours, you can choose to enjoy one of the grand chateaux in the region now transformed into comfy accommodation venues.
Bordeaux is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With fine food, beautiful scenery, the sunshine, world-renowned wines, and a rich historical culture, Bordeaux is your perfect cycling wine tour destination.
9. Route des Grand Crus, Burgundy, France
With expansive vineyards, wooded paths, and rolling hills, the Route des Grand Crus (Road of the Great Wines) provides close to 800km of leisurely biking. The route promises you one of the best ways of exploring the finest wineries and vineyards in Burgundy.
While wine and cheese tasting opportunities are plenty along the way as you ride in Mersault and Aloxe Corton (a tiny town of less than 200), you will also enjoy a rare cultural tour when you reach Beaune. This is a friendly medieval town, once a center of the wine trade in the 18th century.
10. Cape Winelands, South Africa
This sun favoured area of the Cape Winelands has some lush scenery to enjoy as you ride. It has row upon row of old and gnarled vines as your foreground with the backdrop being the abrupt Groot Drakenstein Mountains. The historic South African town of Franschhoek also has some awesome cuisine and a reputation as the nation’s gastronomic capital all waiting for you.
French Huguenots made the Franschhoek valley their settlement over three centuries ago with their vines in hand. To this day, it has remained at the heart of the wine industry in South Africa.
If you like breaking a healthy sweat as you visit some of the best vineyards in the world, these are the top 10 cycling routes. You will not only have great family fun, enjoying some of the best wines on the planet, but also leave behind a minimal carbon footprint.
About the Contributing Writer: Hi, I’m Mike McLeish. When I’m not testing the latest bike touring equipment I’m running my cycling blog – Pinch-Flat! Elaine at Carpe-Travel has let me share my top bicycle wine routes with you. I hope you like them! Follow me on Twitter Follow him on Twitter at @Pinch_Flat.